13 November 2019 21:06
The issue of fans invading the pitch has been in the spotlight both north and south of the border in recent days. On Friday night a Hibs fan jumped over a barrier to confront Rangers captain James Tavernier as he prepared to take a throw-in, and yesterday Aston Villa's Jack Grealish was allegedly punched by a Birmingham City fan. While nobody wants to see fans invading the pitch, far less putting players in jeopardy, we can't help but feel former Birmingham player David Cotterill has gone a little far with his suggestion to curb the issue. "It's a disgrace; very dangerous for the players because the pitch invader could have had a weapon or anything really, we need to stamp down on this as soon as possible," he told BBC Radio Wales. Now, clearly David Cotterill is not advocating shooting pitch invaders.
Some European stadiums have concrete moats to stop fans getting onto the pitch, but here in rainy Scotland we could surely go for the real thing. You can follow Football Scotland here on Twitter and join the conversation on our Facebook page here. The best way to get these misbehaving fans under control was – and it's obvious when you think about it – a crocodile-filled moat surrounding the pitch. Birmingham City fan pleads guilty to assaulting Aston Villa's Jack Grealish Read more I think that the problem of fans running on to the pitch will be solved once and for all." That is, until today, when former Birmingham City and Wales midfielder David Cotterill waded into the debate surrounding the attack on Aston Villa's Jack Grealish during Sunday's Brum derby by opining that the best way to tackle the jinking, tricksy issue of crowd control is not with the calm well-timed challenge of actually thinking about it, or even with the two-footed knee-high lunge of a crocodile-filled moat, but by grabbing a semi-automatic firearm and blowing its kneecaps off. "It's a disgrace and very dangerous for the players because the pitch invader could have had a weapon or anything really.
But it's not just English football that's had to deal with hooliganism in recent days. On Friday in Scotland, Rangers' player James Tavernier was confronted by a fan during the match against Hibernian. Former Newcastle United and England international Alan Shearer says Birmingham should face strong sanctions and that the various organizations that regulate English football are facing a watershed moment. The Arsenal fan who ran onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium has been charged with common assault and entering the field of play by the Metropolitan Police. Fans of England's national team became particularly notorious for pre-match clashes with opposition supporters before the turn of the millennium.
I am not condoning guns at games but if the police are going to be armed, I think that is the way forward," Cotterill told BBC Wales. All the clubs involved in the above incidents have issued apologies to the affected players and promised to do more to stop such attacks in the future. "Over the last few decades there has been a great improvement in match day security, however incidents like this demonstrate certain problems have not been eradicated and that players can be particularly vulnerable," a PFA statement read. The English Premier League (EPL) said it would "work with all the relevant parties to address the issue of player and match officials safety on the pitch." Meanwhile, the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) confirmed it would "review the specific circumstances of that event in conjunction with the match delegate and the police and take any appropriate steps." On Sunday we saw two separate incidents, at Birmingham City and Arsenal, of individuals entering the field of play and assaulting players," said an FA spokesperson. "Not only is it an offence to enter the pitch, which could result in a club ban and criminal charges for the individual, but it also puts the safety of the players at risk. "We will be working with the clubs, the leagues and the police to discuss what collectively needs to be done to protect players and officials on the pitch. Speaking at the scene, PC David Cotterill, of Dorset Police's traffic unit, told the Echo: "There has been a single vehicle crash involving a car and a pedal cycle. Media playback is not supported on this device David Cotterill on his depression battle Feeling he had nowhere else to turn, David Cotterill would try anything to distract his mind from his own thoughts. These were the darkest days of Cotterill's mental struggles, which he has carried with him through a career of more than 400 games for Birmingham, Swansea, Sheffield United, Doncaster and Wigan, including 24 caps for his country. The Cardiff-born midfielder says he had most of the material things many would dream of: the cars, the house, the wages and the fulfilled boyhood ambition of playing in the Premier League and on the international stage. "When you're around others the conversations are flowing and you tend to not have time to think about it, you're looking forward to going out to train," Cotterill says, speaking publicly for the first time about his struggles. David Cotterill's highs on the football pitch were in marked contrast to his lows away from it Cotterill says he always "sensed he was a little bit different"; that it was more than just the typical teenage difficulties. He says the excitement of his early career - he had already become Wales' then-second youngest international in 2005 before a £2m move to the Premier League with Wigan from Bristol City - stopped him focusing on what was always in the background. Cotterill recalls: "In the early stages, I'd always have to go and have a drive where I would spend hours in the car and think a lot of bad things. Cotterill says he realised he was in "a dark place", although neither team-mates nor managers would ever know, something he believes is part of both his and football's problem with depression. 'There's footballers all over the country who feel this way' "Put it this way, if I went to a manager and said I'm struggling mentally, I need a break or I need a little bit of help, there's no way he's playing me on a Saturday or a Tuesday," Cotterill says. "I guarantee there's footballers all over the country who feel this way. "I don't think you can go to the manager or club and say, 'by the way I'm not coming in today, I'm going to see a doctor because mentally I'm not feeling great'. It was her he first opened up to, saying he had "parked" for too long because of football. Cotterill would use Lego as a way of distracting him during long hours in hotel rooms, team-mates not picking up on the clues of the therapeutic nature of constructing toy brick buildings. "I feel better for speaking about it," he says, with one of the reasons for breaking his silence being to help others feel more able to talk about issues honestly. If you're the big man or big dog in that football team you potentially might get help; if you're just a number in that squad I don't think you're getting the help you deserve or need," Cotterill says. And this time he is not concerned with the sporting consequences, saying: "If talking about it affects me from signing somewhere else then I don't want to continue to play football." If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article you can find the details of organisations offering support via Action Line.